There’s no disputing the importance of a good computer network and the benefits they bring — empowering businesses in ways that not only ensure all operations are completed successfully but also improves the efficiency and standards to which these tasks are carried out.
Like the seamless flow of traffic on a busy motorway, a good network distributes data in an uninterrupted and orderly fashion, and it does it quickly. This is what enables you to successfully send and receive emails, access important files/documents with ease, connect multiple devices and share resources with authorised users in a group network. It’s an incredibly complex and intricate system.
If something were to go wrong, however, it’s easy to imagine how all that data might slow down, pile up, or get lost altogether — resulting in short-term business continuity problems for you and your staff, and even broader, legal ramifications for your business as a whole. That’s why the security of your network and its general upkeep are both crucial factors you should always be thinking about.
Just like that busy motorway, a good network is safe, secure and regularly maintained. So let’s break things down and start by looking at an unsecured network and the problems they bring.
The problems with an unsecured network and how to make it secure
Before we delve into the specifics, it’s worth taking a look at a few telling statistics that illustrate just how prevalent cyberthreats are in today’s digital age. According to the National Crime Agency, cybercrime now accounts for 50% of all crimes in the UK — which certainly makes sense given the increasing scope of digital technologies in recent years. And even though we tend to hear stories of larger companies falling victim to cybercrime, it’s estimated that roughly 48% of cyberattacks carried out are against small to medium-sized businesses (source: Symantec). In fact, according to research carried out by Lloyds Bank, it’s thought that up to half a million SMEs in the UK have fallen victim to cybercrime through their emails alone.
Evidently, cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to businesses today. But what are the implications of getting hacked? Well, your primary concern is data theft. At the very least, you risk a loss of files, software, system or website corruption, and even loss of assets or intellectual property. At the very worst, you could face legal action as a result of failing to properly safeguard sensitive, personal information as well as irreparable damage to your business reputation/brand.
There are numerous cyberthreats and hacking techniques that outsiders use to gain unauthorised access to your network, but chief among them include:
Computer viruses – Designed to be spread from one computer to another, computer viruses are known to send spam, disable your security settings, corrupt and steal data from your computer (including personal information such as passwords), even going as far as to delete everything on your hard drive. There are many different types of viruses, but they all pose a serious risk.
Trojan horse – Taken from the old Greek myth, a Trojan horse is a malicious piece of software that tricks users into running it willingly, by hiding behind a legitimate program. Once inside your computer, Trojans can record your passwords by logging keystrokes, hijacking your webcam, and stealing any sensitive data stored on your computer.
Ransomware – As the name suggests, this is a particularly nasty form of attack as it essentially offers the affected user with an ultimatum – pay to unlock and reclaim personal data or lose the data, often for good. Ransomware has the ability to externally corrupt and delete files at the drop of a hat, making users extremely vulnerable and forced into a corner in terms of the demands.
In short, an unsecured network is a detriment to everything on it, from applications and software to highly sensitive information. That’s why it’s essential to bolster the security of your network in the following ways:
Install a firewall – In very simple terms, a firewall is a barrier that controls incoming and outgoing network traffic. Like an automatic arm barrier, a firewall helps regulate traffic flow based on a stringent set of rules. More importantly, it restricts unauthorised packets of data from entering or leaving a network — providing a safer environment from malicious entities while simultaneously protecting your own data from theft.
Install anti-virus software – Anti-virus software protects against the plethora of computer viruses that threaten your network. They’re essentially the ‘law enforcement motorcades’ that prevent harmful and malicious entities from causing havoc on the other physical devices in the business. They also help detect potential threats that may have already slipped through, removing them where possible. Also, with new technology-integration in the workplace and the growing number of people using other corporate devices (such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops), it’s vital to ensure these additional devices are equally safeguarded.
Update passwords regularly – In addition to using passwords that feature both letters and numbers — and some uppercase letters — it’s crucial that network users update their passwords and login details. There’s no road analogy with this tip; it’s just best practice. Changing passwords once a quarter is the recommended frequency. It’s also advised not to keep all passwords the same, as this will leave all software applications vulnerable to being hacked in the event of a piece of software being compromised.
Staff training – It would be a shame for a business to tick all the boxes, implement every possible safeguard and layer-up their security; only then to be compromised as a result of an employee mistakenly distributing a malicious malware via your internal email. Accidents do happen, so it’s always important to educate your staff and train them to be vigilant for potential threats.
Of course, there’s more to securing a computer network than just putting these measures (and plenty of others) into place. You have to make sure you keep up-to-date with everything you’ve implemented.
For example, firewalls need to be monitored to ensure performance is on par with the increasingly sophisticated methods employed by today’s hackers while anti-viruses require regular updates to fend off newer, increasingly ubiquitous malware. That’s why every good network is regularly maintained to help prevent against technical issues (such as those caused by a security breach) and ensure optimal performance 24/7.
The problems with an unmaintained network and why regular maintenance is key
Network maintenance is something many businesses tend to overlook; assuming that once a computer network is installed, everything will take care of itself. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The high demands made on your network require optimal status, and this requires maintenance.
You wouldn’t expect a car to run smoothly without the occasional tune-up, just as you wouldn’t expect a busy stretch of road to safely and efficiently accommodate all those vehicles without being serviced regularly. Well, as we’ve already established, your computer network is all of these things rolled into one.
An unmaintained network not only risks a breach in your network security but can also lead to data congestion, persistent problems when trying to connect to the internet, and application failures. Needless to say, these can all negatively impact the productivity of your staff and severely disrupt the continuity of your business.
One of the biggest issues with an unmaintained network is outdated technologies or technologies that no longer meet the requirements of a changing business. It’s not unusual for companies to switch to newer software, or add additional users to a network without making the necessary hardware configurations — consequently struggling to perform tasks that require more power and processing capabilities than devices can handle.
It’s important to recognise the necessity of phasing out old technologies as new ones emerge to take their place. Routine network maintenance ensures you’re never left in the dust when a better, more secure and cost-effective solution becomes available. ISDN for example, which has been the standard for delivering voice and data services on digital lines for many years, is gradually being replaced by newer technologies.
One of those new technologies is SIP, which converges voice and data into a single connection. It’s not only faster but also reduces the complexity of a network’s infrastructure and makes it much easier to look after. We will be discussing this topic in a little more detail to advise on how you make the transfer (so watch this space!), but for now, it’s a fine example of why network maintenance is key.
RDS Global can provide round-the-clock support to guarantee your network is safe, secure and continuously performing for your business. Our in-hours and out-of-hours network specialists are always available to assist with diagnostic and repairs should you need it, minimising downtime in the event of an emergency. It’s essentially an AA service for your network!
“RDS Global have been an invaluable asset to our company and the growth we have achieved. With their help in providing us with IT Support, Network infrastructure and Telephone/Mobile connectivity we have successfully grown whilst ensuring we are secure and compliant. Most recently, we have positively acquired 4 additional sites to the Group which couldn’t have been achieved without the expertise of RDS and the flexible, remote abilities demonstrated by the team. With time constraints of 48 hours, RDS completed a telephony install ensuring the business could operate and communicate with clients. RDS are our first point of call for all things IT, Mobile and Security as they consistently provide great customer service and commitment to provide resolutions which allows us to focus on the day-to-day running of the business.”
We understand that all network requirements are different. That’s why we work alongside you to establish a network roadmap based on your business needs, making sure solutions remain tailored as your business continues to grow.